University of Nottingham Malaysia professor wins RM11.3mil

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Dr Ho Weang Kee, an associate professor of the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University of Nottingham Malaysia (UNM), was awarded a prestigious Wellcome Trust Career Development Award (WTCDA), a January 31 article stated.

The award totals to £1.92 million (RM11.3 million), and will be used to develop novel breast cancer risk stratification and communication methods in diverse Asian populations.

Specifically, it will fund an eight-year research programme co-hosted by UNM and Cancer Research Malaysia.

The goal is to enhance the accuracy of breast cancer risk prediction models, tailoring to the unique genetic and environmental factors found in diverse Asian populations.

As such, Dr Ho plans to leverage the award to refine breast cancer risk assessment in the Asian population, developing innovative methods to harness valuable insights from existing, less powerful datasets in underrepresented populations.

“The plan is to start with breast cancer and expand to other non-communicable diseases in the future,” Dr Ho added.

Meet the scientist

According to her profile on UNM’s website, Dr. Ho Weang Kee is a lecturer and researcher in statistics, having completed her PhD in the area of missing data in longitudinal and survival studies at Newcastle University in the UK.

Image Credit: University of Nottingham Malaysia

She’s worked on projects that aimed to develop methodologies in child speech and language development, as well as on genetic and biomarkers for cardiovascular disease based on large electronic record databases.

In 2013, she moved back to Malaysia and joined UNM. In a 2019 article by UNM, she explained the nuances behind her research:

“Unlike rare genetic mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, which affect only a small proportion of the population, there are over a hundred of these common but tiny genetic variations that we inherit from our parents. Having one of these common genetic variations won’t really do any harm but inheriting a combination could cause a problem.”

As such, her focus on these markers will help to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of breast cancer screening in Malaysia and beyond.

Prior to the WTCDA, she was also recognised by the L’Oréal-UNESCO International Rising Talent Award for her work in developing a predictive model estimating the risk of breast cancer for Southeast Asian women.

A first for Malaysia

Professor Ir Dr Mohd Shahir Liew, the Vice Provost of Research and Knowledge Exchange at UNM, shared in the release that this award is the first-of-its-kind to be awarded in Malaysia.  

An initiative of the Wellcome Foundation, a UK-based charitable foundation established in 1936, the press release stated that the award is highly competitive.

The foundation funds research to support new discoveries in science across various disciplines that aim to improve human life, health, and wellbeing.

Specifically, the WTCDA acknowledges and offers funding to mid-career researchers with the potential to emerge as international research leaders—people such as Dr Ho Weang Kee.

  • Learn more about the University of Nottingham Malaysia here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about healthtech here.

Featured Image Credit: University of Nottingham Malaysia

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